November 9, 2018
A newly proposed U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule-making could help farmers advertise job openings to domestic workers as required under the H-2A visa program. The DOL rule-making would require that employers seeking to hire temporary workers post the employment opportunities online rather than in expensive newspapers advertisements that might reach just a limited audience.
Under current rules, an employer advertising a job for which it seeks a temporary labor certification must publish two print advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of intended employment. To modernize this recruitment and make job opportunities more readily available to Americans, DOL and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are proposing a rule that would require employers seeking temporary labor certifications through the H-2B visa program to post job advertisements online for at least 14 days.
DOL is simultaneously proposing a similar rule for temporary labor certifications through the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers.
By increasing the accessibility of advertisements to Americans, these proposals bring H-2B and H-2A visa programs in line with the modern recruitment practices of employers and the job-seeking practices of American workers. With Internet-based advertising, American job seekers in the intended employment area and across the nation can more easily identify available job opportunities. Additionally, the longer posting period of 14 days would give American workers more time to learn of job opportunities. The proposed rules may also reduce employers' recruitment costs, DOL said.
As part of its labor certification responsibilities, the DOL Employment & Training Administration's Office of Foreign Labor Certification is required to determine whether American workers are available to perform the jobs for which employers seek foreign workers. The department determines the availability of American workers, in part, by requiring employer applicants for foreign labor certification to actively recruit American workers.
This is an early step in H-2A regulatory reforms promised in May in a joint statement by the secretaries of agriculture, labor, state and homeland security.
“When I travel around the country, one of the biggest concerns farmers raise is the shortage of legal farm labor, Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world, and they want to obey immigration law,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “Where American workers are not available, farmers turn to the H-2A program that is overly bureaucratic and cost prohibitive. Using regulations like this is one way to modernize H-2A to reach more American workers while providing relief to farmers from one of the high costs of the program.
“It’s good to see the federal government using 21st-century technology rather than being limited to placing notices in the want ads,” Perdue added.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) said, “The Trump Administration has remained committed to modernizing the H-2A program to make it more workable for farmers. This change was long overdue, and I applaud this positive step to streamline regulations and modernize the H-2A program to ease burdens on small farm operations struggling with scarce labor.”
Perdue said Congress needs to continue to step up to address many of the shortfalls in the current H-2A system. He applauded Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and urged members of Congress to redouble their efforts to help farmers find the workers they need to continue to feed, fuel and clothe the U.S. and the world.
“H-2A reforms can chip around the edges of the labor shortage problem, but it will take action from Congress to address it fully,” Perdue said.
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